The Corner

On The Other Hand

From a reader:

The response to your knee-jerk ‘get the *&^% out’ diatribe is the same as always to such idiocy: maybe the guy actually LOVES HIS COUNTRY, as you conservatives tell us we all should, and wants to change things for the better here. I’m an atheist myself (one who supports the Iraq war, before you pigeonhole me), and I think the Pledge is creepy in general, and the God bit just annoying. The beauty of our country is that it evokes great loyalty precisely because it doesn’t demand it. The Pledge is a pointless and anti-American exercise. The fact is, the intention of the fundies is to try to force their God on the rest of us (and why shouldn’t they? wouldn’t you, if you felt you had access to the ultimate truth?) and we have to fight it where we can. How exactly would it be a ’slap in the face’ to take God out of the thing? Was it a slap in the face to religious folks for the many years it existed with no reference to God?

ME: Obviously, I disagree with a lot of this. But let me just address one point. This reader (a professor) wants to know how it would be a slap in the face to Americans to get rid of the under God portion since it was only added half a century ago. Well, because it obviously would be. Close to 90% of Americans want to keep the pledge in there. Taking it out because of the demands of a tiny minority would once again reinforce the widespread (and correct) feeling that a tiny group of secular social engineers have once again redrawn the country according to their own unpopular views. This reader and others like him fail to understand that to most Americans Mr. Newdow is just as much of a fundamentalist (or “fundie”) as members of the religious right.

The most persuasive argument — among many — for why the phrase under God should stay there, in my view, is not because it’s an establishment of religion or because we are a “Christian nation” but because removing it would do more damage than leaving it. Indeed, if the phrase under God had never been added, I would be against adding it today. But the fact is it’s there today and it’s one of the few places left where fundamentalists like Newdow haven’t scrubbed religion from the Public Square like so much graffiti. And I am a Burkean on this. As Delta House President Robert Hoover might have said had he been serving as Solictor General, “But sir, the phrase ‘under God’ has a long tradition of existence both to its members and the community at large.”

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